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Are Robots Coming for Your Job? Eventually, Yes (nytimes.com)
22 points by sylvainkalache 85 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments



Hopefully, they will start with the job of writing "robots will take your job" articles because they seem to be exactly the kind of boring task best suited for robots. Rewording McKinsey's content marketing should be possible even today.


Even if we take the source as completely trustworthy, the estimate is one-third of jobs -- a lot, but not the totally jobless world the headline suggets.


Honestly, I think the worries about AI taking jobs are overblown. Will AI get better? Yes. Will some jobs be doable by AI? Yes. May that eventually end up being all jobs? Guess so.

But that doesn't mean people won't be able to find work or make money. I mean, you don't have to be the 'best' at something to get rich off of it, nor to even simply earn a living at it. I mean, think about it. Objectively the majority of products, services and businesses out there now are worse than at least one competitor. If people were always rational about what they were buying, said businesses/products/services would go broke.

But they're not rational. People buy things and use products because of many things, whether that's convenience, location, price, name recognition/branding, marketing, word of mouth type marketing, social proof, quality of service/employees/whatever, pure luck or heck, without even thinking at all.

So even if every market in existence gets AI involved in, it still won't necessarily mean old fashioned human run businesses can't compete and win customers.

There's also the additional effect of branding that people never really think about here too. People don't just watch 'a' TV show or film or what not, they watch Star Wars or Game of Thrones or what not. Same with music, games, books, art, internet media and basically anything celebrity related in general. Eventually, the greats sell on their name alone, and that's one barrier that even the best use of AI may not compete with. Just look at a popular book for example, in some cases the author's name is literally more than double the size of the title!

So that may also be another area where robots won't eventually come for jobs/take all the jobs. Perhaps we'll end up in a world where the 'Patreon' style model is the norm and the standards for success are how well you market your own brand rather than the exact quality of what you do...


Is it just me or did the article not offer much in the way of how or why said robots would take our jobs?

The article only seemed to say that it would happen eventually and, as a result, the labor force of the future will require more software engineering skills.


Maybe I am just an idiot...but I don't understand what the fuss is. Through 1870-90, the economy went through a similar phase and the world didn't end...and this was with no unemployment protection. If anything that period was more severe than anything that can happen next: productivity in some industries went up more than ten times pretty much overnight (cigarette production is the archetypal example).

The only thing that doesn't appear to function well now is education, which appears to be stuck in the post-WW2 mentality of a job for life and which the author does identify as a problem. That doesn't seem like a particularly big deal however (at least half of the problem is convincing people that they need to keep learning).

The real concern for me is people constantly predicting the end of the world. Politicians are taking it seriously and they will inevitably fuck it up. Also, the world that journalists seem to live in has pretty much never existed. The only reason a "job for life" occurred after WW2 was because of the huge barriers on trade/capital that were put in place around this period. No competition, high prices...yes, the true glory days.


"That doesn't seem like a particularly big deal however (at least half of the problem is convincing people that they need to keep learning)."

Once you get older you quickly learn that constant learning doesn't necessarily help you that much on the job market. And most of us need a job with income for most of our life. Add the trend towards income inequality where most of society's economical progress goes to the top and I think people should be concerned about their future.

It's easy to imagine a future where a lot of work is automated but instead of making life better for everyone society is split up in a few "haves" and a lot of people who are viewed as "useless".


>The only thing that doesn't appear to function well now is education, which appears to be stuck in the post-WW2 mentality of a job for life.

I would say education is stuck in a pre 1980s paradigm of prepping 80% of the population to be nothing more than warm, wet, expensive robots - - in other words, conventional blue collar workers. Humanity can be so much more...


I think that they have moved on and are still in the "everybody should go to college and get a bachelor's degree" mode. Which leads to a lot of people without the intellectual tools for knowledge work flunking out with huge piles of debt and no marketable skills. Arguably many people would be better served if the older system of tracking into voc tech/business/college prep levels was more in vogue.

I'd push for mandatory shop, home economics, and financial literacy training.


I agree. The issue, to me, seems like there isn't a particularly good relation between supply and demand for skills. Stuff like financial literacy is maybe something separate but is also obviously necessary (not just in terms of personal finance, but understanding business).

I would be hesitant to frame it in terms of something that already exists however. In terms of function, the outcome should be skills that are applicable to business so vocational. But it needs to be more distinct. For example, more vocational education should have significantly greater links to business than already exists (not research but training).


How about we spend enough time and money to give all citizens the same "intellectual tools" that upper middle class parents provide for their children?


My theory is that writing articles about "the robots commin' to get ya" is someone's business model. Exactly how that works I can't fathom. But there have been so many articles like this in the past couple of years (vs the actual probability that robots are really coming -- which is pretty low) that I have to believe there's a command center somewhere where someone is running some kind of disinformation operation against us..


...we are talking so maybe that it is proof that the business works...maybe the author is a robot preying on human weakness...is this how they get us?

Srs though, ppl aren't particularly interested in being told that stuff is okay or even learning from past experience. The present is always extremely unique and very dangerous.

For example, I am not from the US but follow US politics...as far as I can tell, every election over the past ten years has been "the most important election there has ever been". I remember 2012 specifically: it was hyped into oblivion but was totally inconsequential.


Fear sells.


The fuss is over whether one of these phases will be the last for human workers.

Education is an extremely hard problem to solve because it doesn't seem to be working in general. That is, the effects of shared environment are small and completely dwarfed by genetics and sheer randomness.


I don't understand...you are saying the problem is everyone stops working? If that happened then none of this would be a problem. The point of production is consumption, if no labour is required to subsist then work has no function, production has no value, and none of this matters...that isn't going to happen, and it isn't what the author is saying will happen.

I am not sure what you mean about education (I don't know what "shared environment" or "randomness" means in this context). I am sure everyone here knows there are tons of issues...it comes down to: if you had to build the education system today, would it look like what we have now? No, quite clearly not. The situation in every country is obviously very different but that is what it comes down to: inertia. There is nothing intrinsically difficult though, we have got this far after all.


Somehow humanity survived using one room schoolhouses, though.


If schools don't do much beyond warehousing kids, which seems to be the case, then one room schoolhouses are just as good, if less comfortable, as multiroom schoolhouses.


I believe the issue is the number of ppl affected by change. Remember the population has increased from 38,555,983 (1870) to 328M+ today. Thats a lot of lives affected, no matter the industry, plus the subsequent affects.


As long as technology marches forward and evolution creeps forward at a snails pace, there will be a point in the future where robots are better than humans at doing any job, not just repetitive manual labor. That point of singularity has not occurred previously in human history.

The only real debates to be had are when that will occur, a thousand years? A hundred? Ten?


What is the intended effect of articles like this? Motivate people to work harder a la John Henry? Motivate people to learn technical skills despite the negative net job creation of automation? Would having a more widely educated workforce even help?


    > What is the intended effect of articles like this?
How about just promoting an understanding of changes which will happen between now and the next couple decades.

Or should we just give up and accept our fate? :-)


This is not a great article, but, in general, you can publish a news story just to describe reality, without intending to motivate anyone to do anything, and there is nothing wrong with that.


or could be a case of promoting planning for the "eventually, yes" to happen whether that is early retirement planning, career change, or anything else.

I mean, I do pay into retirement and the like, but quite frankly, I personally approach my job as this career path will always be there for me if I so choose so I'd be in some degree of danger if my belief is proven wrong later in life.


I wonder when this will become a major issue in a US presidential election. Also I wonder what the major parties' stances will be on how to deal with the effects of automation.


I wouldn’t hold your breath- this seems unlikely to me because a) the boil is very slowly heating up and by the time the frog notices it will already be really hot and b) there is probably significant political will to keep automation progressing as long as it’s profitible. So people aren’t riled up, but companies could be if you outlawed their cost savings, so it seems like a loser of an issue.


I think it already has. A lot of 2016’s drama was in the rust belt. And while some of those jobs went to China and Mexico, probably even more of them were automated away.


It will be a big deal once we have a robotic presidential candidate :)


As long as he likes blackjack and hookers I'm sure the electorate will be just fine with him (:


When a job disappears due to automation, it’s bad for the person losing their job, but it seems to be good for everybody else.

Is this always the case? Is there a tipping point where automation becomes not good for everyone else?


I think the world probably took a turn for the worse when surveillance became automated.

Stasi were evil people but could only do what was humanly possible. Now look at what NSA can do.


"When a job disappears due to automation, it’s bad for the person losing their job, but it seems to be good for everybody else. "

Is it really better for everybody? Whole regions can get devastated that way. And with the trend towards income inequality only a few actually benefit.


I wonder if the saboteur will also make a comeback then.


It’s almost the end of 2018 — have you raised alarms bells yet for this years most hyped tech bogeymen?

- deepface will change laws.

- killing robots.

- blockchains will make X obsolete.

- AI will take your job.

Am I missing something?


I see a lot of news stories and anecdotes about automation via robots. Are there any statistics that describe this trend?


You must be new here


tl;dr:

(Not a typo, it's just that if you summarize this article, there's nothing left. No point, no insight, no argument, just some rambling, a submarine, and some links to other headlines)


Are Robots Coming for Your Job? Eventually, Yes

Is The Bull Market Coming to an End? Eventually, Yes

Does my cat like Sushi rolls? Eventually, Yes

Does Titles like these bother You? Eventually, Yes


Your cat might (and probably will) die before they like sushi roles, so your understanding of eventually might not be canonical.


> Your cat might (and probably will) die before they like sushi roles, so your understanding of eventually might not be canonical.

Do you... have a cat? It's harder to get them not to eat the fish you don't want them to have.


As far as I know, most cats won’t eat rice.


Given infinite time, something called your cat will eventually like sushi roles [sic]. #Pedantic


No, there are definitely diffeeences in timescales.

“It will eventually rain today” is very different in its truthiness when compared to “it will eventually rain this year”. It’s the same when comparing statements with a close by deadline (the expected death of a cat) and one that is much farther off (the dissolution of the USA).

Beyond that, Boltzmann brains tell us that some things aren’t possible given an infinite amount of time.


Suppose, for the sake of argument, that "coming for your jobs " is completely overblown and no different than automation throughout the previous decades.

Isn't there a separate shadow issue of lack of diversity in the market? I mean, we can't all be app developers, web designers, and project managers.

Sure, you say, there will always be non-tech jobs. Ok, like lawyers? That will be decimated by strong AI-as-a-service eDisocvery and legal analysis bots that replace paralegals and associates. So now the firm is a partner or two, and a $14/hr runner who drives to court and files motions.

Doctors? Ok they read their FDA-certified AI and make sure it's sane and send you to the ePharmacy where biometric auth and videos replace the pharmacist.

The cleaning staff at both offices are replaced by smart-bots that auto mop and empty trash. So each building has a security/facilities person.

Restaurants? Most have kiosks and a chef-bot. Just a hostess and manager to make sure the fryer doesn't burn the building down. Uber has long been automated.

So again, what's left? Government jobs most likely. And going back to my original supposition, let's ignore how people make their money. Can we all be "data scientists" using AI to analyze customer behavior at restaurant kiosks to apply predictive suggestions for their dessert? Can we all write websites for the small businesses (that don't exist because they can't afford the AI services that BigCorp has)? What happens when Google computes every last datapoint about us? Facebook has reached complete saturation and there's no new info to sell to advertisers. How would our economy function if there's basically one industry left? You can't compute analytics about yourself or sell website services to website service people.


You left out the entire entertainment industry. I imagine that many people will end up doing creative endeavors, including art, engineering, philosophy, and science. Also, people (being more flexible than robots) could be the main actors behind space exploration.




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